New hydro dam opens in N.W.T.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation officially unveiled its new Bluefish hydro dam on Tuesday.

Bluefish dam cost territory $37M

The N.W.T.'s new Bluefish dam opened Tuesday. CBC North's Richard Gleeson reports. 2:33

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation has officially unveiled its new Bluefish hydro dam.

The corporation bought Bluefish for $10 million a decade ago.

Leaders and politicians say the $37-million dam will pay for itself many times over its lifespan.

"I'm the Minister of Finance, I am the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, I am the minister responsible for the Power Corporation and House leader and I can say without reservation or equivocation, this is a good investment," said Michael Miltenberger, who is responsible for the power corporation.

Bluefish was built 70 years ago by Nerco to power Con Mine in Yellowknife.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, officials flipped the switch to begin generating power. (CBC)

Hydro is a lasting positive legacy of mining in the area — a legacy which won't be left behind by the territory's diesel-powered diamond mines.

"I think we recognized that it certainly was an opportunity missed. And I think the next time we have the ability to expand very quickly into hydro," said Brendan Bell, the chair of the power corporation.

Bell said hydro lines must be brought closer to the diamond fields. The power corporation is looking into making that idea part of a plan which also includes linking its hydro systems in the north and south slave.

The opening on Tuesday included flicking the switch to begin generating power with water that is built up behind the new dam.

But that didn’t go as smoothly as the ribbon cutting — a branch got caught in a valve, which jammed it open.  That send a rush of water downhill towards all the dignitaries who were quickly ushered away.

"That valve has operated a thousand times and never done that. It's probably done it because the cameras are here," said Dan Roberts, the director of engineering at the power corporation.

The dam is engineered to last at least 100 years.